Comic books and graphic novels


CW's "The Flash" Can't Get Here Fast Enough!

CW's Flash

Rocketing out of CW's Arrow comes another DC Universe super hero. His name is Barry Allen. He is the fastest man alive.

The CW pilot for The Flash does an exemplary job at setting the stage for all the events to come: telling an origin, providing a reason for the hero, and putting into play the long game (and the even longer game, but that would be spoiling things), all in the space of a one-hour episode. Hints have been dropped in Arrow for some time now about the Central City Particle Accelerator, and Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) has already made his guest appearance in that series. And while it won't be long before fans are finally rewarded with these hints culminating in a much-anticipated spin-off series, one thing is certain upon reviewing this pilot: CW's The Flash can't get here fast enough!


Justice League of America: Survivors of Evil

While the Crime Syndicate was busily taking over the Earth, the question was raised: Where was the Justice League?

The heroes of the world had been imprisoned, uniquely, within the Firestorm matrix, each in a world that capitalized on their psychological weaknesses, trapped in scenarios that prevent them from realizing they're in a fiction. Only the Martian Manhunter and Stargirl understand what is happening, as they probe deeper into the prison. But are they in the process of rescuing the heroes, or are they in a prison themselves?


Dawn / Vampirella #1 (of 6), "Life and Death Rattle"

Back in the mid-90s, I was picking up Joseph Michael Linsner's Dawn books. I didn't always get the content, but I certainly appreciated the artwork. In years prior, I also snuck peeks at Vampirella (I was too young to be allowed to get caught reading them), also for reasons of artwork as well as the cutting edge mature storylines.

Two great tastes ought to go great together, right?

Let's start with page zero -- the cover. This is classic Linsner. The color tones, the enigmatic smiles, the Lauren Bacall hair flip, the knowing eyes, the clean lines, the unapologetic breast forms. Frame this sucker somewhere, because it's simply gorgeous.


Justice League: Forever Heroes

DC's Justice League books were, perhaps, the most enjoyable ancillary chapters of the Forever Evil event. Not surprisingly, they were written by Geoff Johns, so their content didn't contradict anything happening in the main Forever Evil miniseries, and having Ivan Reis and Dough Mahnke provide the interior artwork made them a thing of beauty.


Grimm Tales of Terror #3, "Don't Turn on the Lights"

When I was a fledgling comics reader, one of my favorite genres was the horror anthology. I was too young to have enjoyed EC in its heyday, so my go-to titles were the DC books like House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Ghosts, Tales of the Unexpected and Ghosts. For a brief, bright time during that point in my life, I was also treated to Charlton Comics' Midnight Tales with Arachne and the Midnight Philosopher.

There's a void in the comics industry for this genre today, but Zenescope is taking steps to fill it. Grimm Tales of Terror isn't an anthology, so to speak, as each story takes up the whole issue, but at least the tales are standalone grisly tomes.


Forever Evil (hardcover)

Forever Evil

Geoff Johns proves time and again that he not only knows how to play with all the toys in the DC sandbox, but that he can do it better and use them in ways previously untried.

I've always enjoyed DC's decades-long riff on the Many Worlds theory. So much so that I have my Green Lantern #40, with Hal Jordan and Alan Scott learning about Krona and his multiverse-creating experiment, framed on my office wall, next to my two-part Justice League of America: "Crisis on Earth-3" issues. Those issues, introducing the evil mirror-image Justice League members known as the Crime Syndicate, form the keystone to this epic tale where the bad guys have been playing the long game -- and finally win (at least for a little while). The Crime Syndicate was quickly followed by the Lawless League of Earth-A, but that team didn't have nearly the resonance of the Crime Syndicate.


The Flash, Volume 4: Reverse

It took a little bit, but I'm finally starting to really like The Flash in DC's New 52 Universe. He has a new status quo, a new life, and a new love in Patty Spivot -- even though there's every indication that at some point in the future Barry Allen is destined to be with Iris West. He also has a new angle on his Speed Force powers, which play heavily into this fourth volume, "Reverse."


Carl Potts on Alien Legion: Uncivil War

Carl Potts is just as responsible for my comic fandom as Stan Lee, Bob Kane or Will Eisner. Not only was he responsible for helping industry luminaries Jim Lee and Art Adams break into the business, Potts also wrote or edited many of my favorite comics in the 80s and early 90s, including Dr. Strange, The Defenders, The Punisher War Journal, Strikeforce: Morituri, Marvel Fanfare, Shadowmasters, and the original graphic novels Last of the Dragons and The Alien Legion: A Grey Way to Die. That graphic novel spawned a very successful ongoing series under Marvel's more mature Epic imprint. Now, thirty years since its inception, the Alien Legion is back with an all-new mini-series, Alien Legion: Uncivil War. The first issue is scheduled to hit the shelves on 6/25/2014. The former Marvel Editor-In-Chief took some time to discuss the past, present, and possible future of his beloved space warriors. 


Pat Shand: Grimm Fairy Tales Turns 100!

A long time back (it seems) I remember reviewing Raven Gregory's Return to Wonderland. That has been my one and only exposure to the Zenescope line of comics. Certainly I've been aware of them. The eye-grabbing covers (yes, I'm male, why do you ask?) have captured my attention on more than a few hundred occasions. But I did not realize what was being built across the various titles. And now that the company is at the stage where their flagship title is nearing its 100th issue, I think it's time I gave this indie publisher some of the respect it deserves.

So a few emails and some time-zone mathematics later, I'm on the phone with Zenescope's Pat Shand, asking all the neophyte questions and trying to get a handle on all these various characters running about the titles as they prepare to kill each other.


The Complete Funky Winkerbean, Volume 3 (1978-1980)

Entering any of the Black Squirrel Books reprint anthologies of The Complete Funky Winkerbean is like opening a time capsule. That's because Tom Batiuk's daily comic strips weren't just humorous, but they were consistently on topic to the current events of the day. At times, it's a moment of remembering how things were; at others, it's a reminder of just how much things haven't changed that much at all.


What's Good About Cons? My Wizard World St. Louis Retrospective

I had the opportunity to go to my first ever Con. In particular, I went to the 2014 Wizard World Comic Con in St. Louis, Missouri. Hosted at the America’s Center convention center, this was to be my very first Con that I attended, and needless to say, I was completely stoked.

I went in with typical fanboy aspirations. Maybe I’d shake Lou Ferrigno’s massive hand. Perhaps I’d get to tell Burt Ward and Adam West how many hours of my life I’d lost in front of the TV at my grandparents watching old episodes of Batman. I’m not a huge fan of Dr. Who (I’ll tar and feather myself now, thanks), but I was definitely planning on meeting cult classic icon Bruce Campbell.

As I entered the cavernous space that is the America’s Center, I decided that first things needed to be first. I needed to see my good friend, the wonderfully talented Aaron Walther.


Wizard World St. Louis - April 5, 2014

Wizard World Saint Louis rolled into town yesterday and continues today thru tomorrow. I ventured into the fray this morning with plans to see as much as possible, and I was not disappointed. There is soooo much to see and do. The staff did a good job of keeping everyone organized and moving. The show appears twice as big as it was last year, this year using the floor of the Edward Jones Dome as the main area. With the huge list of artists, celebrities, vendors and events, they needed it.

Everyone from William Shatner to Matt Smith, Adam West and Burt Ward to Bruce Campbell… Every avenue of science fiction, comics, anime, cosplay and video games is represented here. I love coming to the shows to see it all.


Afterlife With Archie More Than Zombies

People are talking about the new horror series Afterlife With Archie that finds the familiar Riverdale gang battling -- and more often than not, becoming -- flesh-eating zombies. It's a thrilling story from the team of Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla that often gets compared to other comic book zombie epics like The Walking Dead.

But this is more than just a zombie story. It's a horror story that brings together -- very subtly, but with hints of growing -- elements of other horror genres, whether it be the overtly supernatural events of Sabrina Spellman which kicked off the current zombie apocalypse, or the subversively creepy undertones of siblings Jason and Cheryl Blossom, who have this whole Flowers in the Attic thing going on between them.


The Wolf Among Us, Episode Two: Smoke and Mirrors

Telltale Games has, undoubtedly, been working their way up the ladder in the gaming industry within the last two years. Their innovative point and click adventures never cease to amaze with their stunning atmospheres, unique characters, and usage of dramatic and very consequential decision making that keeps you holding your breath until the very end. Now, after a nearly four month wait, the second installment to the newest franchise that the company has to offer has finally arrived. With the cliff hanger ending that left players’ jaws hanging back in October, there was no doubt that this much anticipated game would bring some heavy hitting content.


Afterlife with Archie #1

In forty-some odd years of comics reading, I've seen various treatments of the Archie characters. I've seen them little, I've seen them grown. I've seen them super-powered, and I've seen them done realistically. I've seen them humorously, and I've seen them serious.

In short, I've seen it all. Or so I thought.

Afterlife with Archie seemed at first to me to be a gimmick, a way to cash in on the zombie fandom that's so successful these days given series like The Walking Dead. But after reading this first issue, there's so much more depth, character -- and, yes, horror -- than I had anticipated. This is a very well-done zombie apocalypse story -- that just happens to involve a cast of characters you've been intimately familiar with for decades.


Knightess Rouge: On the Serious Business of Cosplay

Knightess Rouge

Comic conventions have come a long way since I first began attending them back in the mid 1980s. Back then, even the large conventions -- in this case the Chicago Comicon, pre-Wizard World -- were pretty much glorified flea markets with a focus on comics, games and toys, with the big plus being that your favorite artists and writers would be in attendance. Oh, and to get an autograph, you just had to stand in line -- not buy a ticket. (If anyone wants to hear my Peter David story regarding book signings, I never tire of telling it.)

Even then, there were fans who wanted to take things up a notch and create costumes of their favorite comic book heroes and villains. I myself created a hand-made Joker outfit that largely consisted of a white pair of pants and a white Don Johnson cotton jacket that had been soaked in purple Rit, white pancake makeup, lipstick, and a pistol that popped out a "BANG!" flag. That was about as elaborate as things got in those days.


Robin's Requiem: What it Should Mean for Batman and Bruce Wayne

"A Robin Redbreast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage."
-- William Blake

Last week, DC Comics delivered to readers the death of Batman's junior partner, Robin. But more than his partner in crime fighting, this Robin was also Bruce Wayne's son, Damian.

As any longtime reader of the Batman comics (or Wikipedia) can tell you, this is the second time a Robin has been killed in the line of duty, the first being Jason Todd (Robin II) who was killed by the Joker (and a readers' poll) in "Death in the Family" way back in the late 1980s. Notwithstanding that Jason Todd got better a few years ago and is still kicking around as the Red Hood (the former identity of The Joker -- nothing Freudian there), the fact still stands that not only did Robin II die, but Jason Todd also died.


Khaled Hosseini: The Kite Runner's Graphic Adaptation

Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner presents an eye-opening story of class struggles in Afghanistan, portrayed over the course of a few decades. After winning awards and being adapted into film, The Kite Runner, Hosseini's first novel, is has made the transition to the graphic novel format, available from Riverhead.

We shared a few moments with Hosseini to discuss this new form for his novel as well as some of the elements of his very moving story.

This is probably the first time I've seen a non-genre literary work adapted into the graphic novel format. How did the idea to use that medium come about?


Tom Batiuk: Still Funky After All These Years

Tom Batiuk

Bridging the gap between Archie and Zits, a comic strip was introduced about high school kids, which spoke to the modern events, issues, and styles of the seventies (and later, the eighties). Funky Winkerbean, the creation of cartoonist Tom Batiuk, has grown over the years from the joke-a-day strip around a central cast of students and teachers at the beleaguered Westview High (home of the Fighting Scapegoats) to a serial dramedy where the kids are now grown adults with teenagers of their own, dealing with heavy topics like cancer, the Iraq war, and school administration ethics.

As the strip approaches its fortieth anniversary, we spoke at length with Batiuk about Funky's origins and evolutions.


Reginald Hudlin: Reinventing the Black Panther

Reginald Hudlin Black Panther

Reginald Hudlin has worn a lot of hats in his time. The East St. Louis native and Harvard graduate entered the entertainment industry with "House Party," and his career has even taken him into the upper echelons of management at BET. Among his many projects, Hudlin writes comics, garnering particular acclaim for his work on Marvel's Black Panther, which has recently been adapted to animation and released to DVD.

What is the road to Hollywood like from East St. Louis? Give the rest of us some hope, how do we pull this off?

(laughs) Well, the thing about roads to Hollywood is that there's no one path -- and usually they're impossible to re-create. In my case, I went to college on the east coast -- I went to Harvard. I shot a little short film at Harvard, and that little short film ended up catching the eye of an executive, and that became "House Party."


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